Civil rights advocates on Monday applauded the family of Eric Garner for their tireless advocacy over the past five years, as the NYPD announced that Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Garner in 2014, had been fired.
A number of observers also made clear that Pantaleo’s firing—after five years of sustained pressure and a number of failures by the justice system to hold the officer accountable—must mark the beginning of a new era of social justice reform.
Garner’s daughter Emerald spoke shortly after the announement, expressing thanks for Pantaleo’s long-awaited dismissal, but pledging, “the fight is not over.”
“We will be going for congressional hearings, we will be trying to repoen the case, we weill be going after the rest of the officers incolved, because it’s not over,” Garner said. “I don’t want another Eric Garner. I will do everything in my power to never see another Eric Garner.”
The family is fighting for the passage of the Eric Garner Law, she added, which would ensure the NYPD never uses chokeholds and that officers are held accountable for civil rights violations.
Pantaleo’s firing after remaining on the force for five years amounted to only a “modicum of justice” for Garner’s family, the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement, calling on the NYPD to hold the other officers who were involved in Garner’s arrest accountable.
“Harm—including grave harm—by police officers is not merely a matter of individual bad actors,” said the group. “From a lack of transparency and accountability, to a culture of secrecy and ongoing biased policing, too many of the factors that led to Mr. Garner’s death and the injustice that followed remain. For Mr. Garner, his family, and all New Yorkers, we need wholesale cultural change within the police department and to move forward with reforms.”
Others echoed the call for full accountability and expressed anger that it had taken half a decade for Pantaleo to be removed from the force.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted that Pantaleo’s firing is “not enough” and highlighted ways in which he would reform the criminal justice system—mandating criminal liabily for all civil rights violations resulting from police misconduct, directing the U.S. Justice Department to investigate all deaths caused by police officers, and ending practices like stop-and-frisk and “broken windows” policing.
Just over five years after Eric Garner was killed during an arrest by a New York City police officer, the officer who killed him was fired on Monday.
The decision came after years of unrelenting advocacy by his family and other supporters.
In a long-awaited statement, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced that the NYPD had determined Officer Daniel Pantaleo had violated department policy by placing Garner in a chokehold when arresting him in July 2014. The maneuver was banned by the NYPD two decades ago.
“It is clear that Daniel Pantaleo can no longer serve as a police officer,” O’Neill told the press.
In addition to his termination, Pantaleo will not receive a pension.
Garner’s family—including his daughter Erica, who died in 2017 at age 27—consistently demanded a thorough investigation of Garner’s death and Pantaleo’s conviction and firing.
A Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against Pantaleo resulted in an uproar in 2014, and Garner’s family expressed outrage last month when the U.S. Justice Department announced it would not prosecute the officer.
But this month Deputy Commissioner Rosemarie Maldonado, a department judge, found that Pantaleo was guilty of “reckless” misconduct, renewing hope that the officer could be fired.
On social media, supporters on Monday gave credit to Garner’s daughters, Erica and Emerald; his mother, Gwen Carr; and his widow, Esaw Snipes, for their tireless advocacy for justice.